The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Volume 21 Issue 97

Wednesday 20 March 2002


Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet

<PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility <>>
Mon, 18 Mar 2002 19:21:02 -0800 (PST)

                                        David J. Farber
                                        Peter G. Neumann
                                        Lauren Weinstein

                                        March 18, 2002


Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet

An Open Letter to the Global Internet Community

Despite its best efforts, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) has proven overall to be a failed experiment in Internet
policy development, implementation, and management.  ICANN's lack of
meaningful representation, and its continuing pattern of drastic and
seemingly arbitrary structural and policy changes (among other
shortcomings), have created an unstable and suspicion-ridden environment
that is detrimental to the interests of the vast majority of Internet users
around the world.  The resulting overly politicized situation not only
threatens the stability of the Internet itself, but also invites drastic and
undesirable interventions by a variety of vested interests.

We will not in this document detail the range of specific problems and
issues, which have become widely recognized and known.  Key aspects of the
problems relating to the Internet and ICANN have been outlined in previous
statements [1][2][3], along with a set of basic proposed Internet guiding
principles [4].  The continuing rapid deterioration relating to ICANN and
its impact on the Internet now forces us to recommend the following three

First, as an immediate temporary measure, all Internet policy, operational,
and other Internet-related functions currently performed by ICANN should be
transferred, as soon as practicable while maintaining continuity, to a
different, already existing non-profit organization (or organizations) on a
non-permanent, strictly stewardship basis.  One potential candidate we would
suggest considering for this role would be the Internet Architecture Board
(IAB), although there are a range of other possibilities of course.  The
process to plan and begin a transfer of responsibilities from ICANN should
be initiated immediately.

Next, we recommend that an intensive, international study be started at
once, with a mandate to propose detailed and meaningful paths for the
Internet's development, operations, and management.  The goal of this study
would be to help guide the formation of purpose-built representative
organizations and policies that would be beneficial both to established
Internet stakeholders and to the wide variety of organizations and
individuals who are effectively disenfranchised in the current Internet
policy environment.  This study should consider both short-term and
long-term alternatives, and could potentially be conducted by the National
Research Council (NRC) and related international organizations, among other
possible frameworks.

Our third recommended step would be for the results of this study to be
carefully considered and, as deemed appropriate, to be implemented.
Internet-related functions would be transferred from the temporary
stewardship organization(s) to the entities developed from the study results.

Time is definitely of the essence if a potential "meltdown" of Internet
policies, functionalities, and operations in the near future is to be
avoided.  There is in particular an immediate need to begin the process of
depoliticizing the situation and providing opportunities for
consensus building regarding the range of Internet issues.  Wide consensus
has already been achieved on at least one key point — even by ICANN's
current president — ICANN is seriously broken.  We agree, and we
additionally assert that ICANN's history, structure, and behaviors strongly
indicate that the most productive course would be for ICANN's role in
Internet affairs to be discontinued.

This is not to cast aspersions on the efforts of any individuals involved
with ICANN in the past or present.  Rather, we feel that ICANN has failed as
an organization, and that the amount of "bad blood" and institutional
"baggage" it carries doom "reform" efforts within the organization itself to
ineffectiveness at best.  We come to this conclusion reluctantly, since in
the past we have considered that there might be an appropriate continuing
role of some sort for ICANN.  Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.

We do not have all of the answers regarding Internet issues — nobody does.
The proposals above are not presented as any kind of fait accompli, but
rather as an attempt to stimulate recognition that the Internet is facing
serious problems that are in need of serious solutions.  The search for
solutions will be difficult, and will be a continuing effort that far
transcends matters relating to ICANN.  But half-measures will no longer
suffice, and the status quo (however it might be disguised or "spun") can no
longer be tolerated.

Some persons genuinely fear that alternatives to ICANN might lead to
situations even worse than the current dysfunctional ICANN environment.
That is indeed a non-zero probability, but the increasingly chaotic
situation with ICANN makes degeneration a decided *likelihood* if ICANN
remains involved with Internet matters.

The day of reckoning is already upon us.  Work should begin immediately to
define and implement collaborative processes that can provide hope of
assuring that the Internet will be the best possible resource for the
population of the entire world.  The risks in change are real, but the need
for change and the possibilities for meaningful and beneficial progress are
even greater.  If we do not take these steps, we may well be dooming the
Internet to a future of mediocrity at best, or of decay, fragmentation,
greed, and even worse outrages.

   [1] PFIR Statement on Internet Policies, Regulations, and Control

   [2] PFIR Proposal for a Representative Global Internet Policy Organization

   [3] URIICA Announcement

   [4] PFIR Declaration of Principles


David J. Farber
Tel: +1 (610) 304-9127
Member of the Board of Trustees EFF -
Member of the Advisory Board — EPIC -
Member of the Advisory Board — CDT -
Member of Board of Directors — PFIR -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Member of the Executive Committee USACM

Peter G. Neumann or or
Tel: +1 (650) 859-2375
Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility -
Co-Founder, Fact Squad -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Moderator, RISKS Forum -
Chairman, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

Lauren Weinstein or or
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility -
Co-Founder, Fact Squad -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum -
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

(Affiliations shown for identification only.)

Please report problems with the web pages to the maintainer